People: Bob's defence lies with Bill

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The Independent Online
IS THIS the moment of truth for Oregon's Republican Senator, Bob Packwood, narrowly re-elected for a fifth time in November? He faces allegations that, just before the vote, he lied to reporters investigating charges of sexual harassment against him.

Yesterday the Senate Rules Committee began hearings on a petition by 250 Oregon voters that Mr Packwood be sacked. But curiously, the harassment charges were not at issue: Mr Packwood himself has more or less admitted them. Rather, the petitioners argue that if he had told the truth before polling day he could never, in this era of Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, have won.

'He stole the election,' says their spokeswoman, Katherine Myer. But Mr Packwood's defenders retort that the case could set a precedent for overturning every election ever held. What politician, they argue, has not told a whopper? Who, they ask, wants dollars 300bn ( pounds 191bn) in tax increases? Was it not a former governor of Arkansas who won the presidency by promising middle- class tax cuts?

So greatly has Alexander Solzhenitsyn risen in the estimation of Russian officialdom that the authorities are building him a house in preparation for his eventual triumphal return. The house is being built in the select dacha colony of Troitse-Lykovo on a 10-acre plot that once belonged to Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky. The enclave is much favoured by former senior KGB agents.

Mr Solzhenitsyn has been living in Vermont since he was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974, a happier fate than that which befell his predecessor in Troitse-Lykovo. The marshal, who took over from Trotsky as leader of the Red Army, organised it brilliantly, and was executed on Stalin's orders in 1937.

The First Family came within dollars 200 ( pounds 127) of being increased by one at the weekend. Mum and Dad went to a fund- raising auction at Chelsea Clinton's school in Washington and found themselves in the middle of a bidding war for a golden retriever puppy. As the stakes mounted, Bill bid an astronomical dollars 3,500 for the puppy, only to be topped by an offer of dollars 3,700. So First Cat Socks, who suffers the indignity of a leash whenever he ventures out, remains the only pet in the White House.

Not a single fan mobbed Michael Jackson when he swanned into the Hotel de Paris in Monaco yesterday. But that didn't worry Jacko. 'Michael just wants to see everything like a normal tourist,' gushed the producer of the Monte Carlo Music Awards ceremony, which Jackson attends tomorrow.

He will sit in the royal box at the opera to hear Luciano Pavarotti, and take tea at the palace with Prince Rainier, Prince Albert and Princess Caroline. Just like a normal tourist.